Well that was India, a roller coaster ride of a country. Every kind of cliche you could imagine walking the streets 24 hours a day. A nation that sometimes seems like one big contradiction. I’m not going to try and pretend that it was the best place I’ve ever been – or even top 5 – but one thing is for sure I’m going to miss the food.
So instead of writing a long article moaning about the many annoying aspects of India, I’m going to have a quick rundown of my 10 favourite things to eat.
Sorry no photos – all taken on my Iphone which is now dead
1. Dosa, Iddly, Vada
Well maybe you might say these are 3 separate items. I say they are the holy trilogy of the mighty south Indian Brekkie. Breakfast of champions as far as I’m concerned. All three – the crispy dosa, the spongy metallic iddly and the spiced savory doughnut that is the vada – covered in spicy sambal and cooling coconut chutney – is the food I’ll miss most. In fact I’m missing it since we left the last southern state, Karnataka. Get them anywhere in south India, or around Tooting Broadway if that’s easier for you.
2. Dal Makhani
“The chieftain of the Dal race” as Robert burns might have called it. Thick, dark and rich. The one vegetarian dish that has the balls of and long cooked mutton curry. An absolute classic. Get it at any Punjabi Dhaba – I haven’t had a bad one yet.
What a feast, a smile lights up in me every time I think of the first 2 months in India eating – and drinking in numerous juices and lassi – the most amazing yellow flesh mangoes. It culminated in our move up coast to Maharashtra where the famed golden fruit, the Alfonso, grow along the coast. The best pieces of fruit that have entered my body. Get them in May and June wherever there are Indians.
4. Kovalam Fish
Fresh out the sea fish doesn’t really need much explaining to most people, but when the restaurant chefs are haggling over the fish while your having brunch, you know you’re in for a treat later – whole tuna coated with a local masala paste and wrapped in banana leaf to cook or tandoori swordfish in butter and garlic, this is the kind of thing that dreams are made of. Get it in Kovalam.
5. Shami Kebabs
The most recent entry on this list, but moved up the charts pretty quickly. Boiled mutton ground with chickpeas to form a kind of half humus, half pate mix made into little patties and fried. So rich they blow your head clean off. Get them in Tunday Kebab, Lucknow.
6. Keralan Thali
You can get a thali anywhere, but the real thali country is Kerala. Sometimes 10 little dishes are served to you on a metal tray, or more traditionally a banana leaf. Then you get unlimited top ups of most of the foods – although I rarely finish the meal to begin with, its amazing watching the locals munch down what sometimes must nearly be a kilo of cooked rice. You might also be offered some local fish curry, which is always a nice option. Get it in Kerala, obviously
Not exactly indian, but hit Himachal Pradesh and you’re in momo Land. Mostly vegetarian, these two bite dumplings, served with a great spicy dip of dried chilli and mint, are great fast food. My favourite were in Kasol but there’s nothing like making your own with the family, staying at Tsavo Guest house in Leh.
8. Cochin Roti Kebab
I’m not sure if this is a new thing. I like to think of Arab traders bringing the shawarma style kebab from the middle east during trips trading for spices. Anyway, take chicken shawarma, some pickled cucumber and carrot, mix and wrap up in a butter roti – that’s a south indian roti, not northern. Absolute heaven. You can feel the butter clogging your arteries, but the token pickle just cuts through enough to make it a prizewinner. Get it in Cochin at someplace I can’t remember. I could take you there if that’s any help.
9. Pav Bhaji
My favourite Mumbai street food. I didn’t know what it was all about at first. Lots of people queuing up for a white bread roll and sauce. how wrong I was. Mixed veggies and tomatoes cooked down to a mush served with a soft buttered roll and another dollop of butter for good measure to work into the sauce. Perfect street food. Get it in Mumbai – anywhere else is just a poor imitation.
10. Delhi Kebabs
So many Kebabs, so many places. I swear these meat rolls will be the death of me. Delhi has to be India’s kebab central. Grilled meats from vendors out on the street is the go, adding spicy mint chatni and onion to the rumali rotis that are so thin and tasty.
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